Philoxenus, Ascetic Discourses (1894) pp.472-523. Discourse 12 -- First Discourse on Fornication
Wise physicians, who desire to draw nigh with knowledge unto the healing of the diseases which happen in the bodies of the children of men, first of all learn the causes of these diseases, and having withdrawn them, bring healing unto their sicknesses without trouble. For when the cause from which the diseases and sicknesses arise is removed, the sicknesses to which it hath given birth are rooted out together with the cause thereof, for when the root [of the tree] is taken up out of the ground it is impossible for its branches or fruit to remain, [p. 495] and if it happen that plants and young trees [live] for a short time afterwards by reason of their natural moisture, yet they will soon dry up when once their roots are shaken free of the earth and are taken up. And thus also is it with the sicknesses am? diseases which happen unto the children of men, for when the physicians first of all remove the causes |473 from which the diseases are produced, little by little the disease dwindleth and cometh to an end as soon as that cause which hath produced it is cut off from the body. And it is meet that we should act in this way also with the passions of sins, which are produced either by the body, or by the soul, for we should first of all remove the causes which give birth unto these passions, that our life may be preserved in immunity from wickedness, and that our own rule and conduct may be free from iniquity. For the man who wisheth to be a free man in God must first of all be freed from the lusts which arise from him, and then let him draw nigh unto the life of freedom of Christ, because also the country of the children of the free will not allow him to enter therein so long as the foul mark of bondage is apparent in his person. Therefore considering closely what we are, and what we shall be, and from what condition unto what condition we have been called, and for what life we shall exchange this life, let us be mindful of ourselves at all seasons, and let us take upon ourselves the knowledge of our rule and conduct continually, and let us learn first of all the causes of the passions of sins [p. 496] which molest our life perpetually by their goadings, for without labour we shall not find the healing of our souls. And let the natural healing which maketh whole human bodies be unto us an example of the healing of our souls, and like the physicians, let us first of all consider the causes by which the goadings of sins against our life are produced, that we may be able to arrive at spiritual healing. Now inasmuch as in the previous Discourse we have chidden the lust of the love of the belly, it is now meet that our speech should proceed |474 systematically against this wicked passion of fornication, which is the origin, and begetter, and nurse of the lust of the belly, and it is easily overcome when a man conquereth the first cause thereof. For through eating and drinking doth the passion of fornication grow strong and blaze in our members, and besides these things it ariseth through loose conversations and human discourse, and through the remembrance of faces of beautiful appearance which are depicted in our souls, and through the repetitions of stories of lust, when they are pleasantly told and listened to, and through the constant sight of faces by which the souls of the weak are straightway caught and held fast by the appearance of passion which is in them, for when once the lust of the body hath made to increase the fire of fornication in the body, corrupt conversations come and stir it into a blaze.
Now this lust hath been placed by the Creator in the members of our bodies by nature for the sake of the fruit of carnal intercourse and the continuation of the world, but by disciples [p. 497] it is to be kept not for this purpose, but that it may be unto them the cause of spiritual crowns, and the material for heavenly battles, that having fought and conquered we may be numbered [among] the victors, and be inscribed as triumphant warriors in the heavenly Jerusalem through the noble deeds which are gained from the place of strife which is opposed thereto. And this lust for carnal intercourse doth not remain in disciples that they may minister thereunto, but that through the heat of natural lust they may put to the test the power of the heat of the lust of the spirit, and that when the fire of the transgression of the law blazeth in their members, they may try with |475 it the hot fire of Jesus which is mingled in our souls; that with the pleasure which is beyond nature they may taste the sweetness of the true nature, and that with the motion which was delivered unto them at the beginning thereof they may receive the taste of the sweetness of the living motion, which has begun to lust after the fair sight of the beauty of Christ, Who abideth without ending in the soul wherein He be-ginneth [to dwell], if it be that it be purified so as to be His dwelling-place.
Now the fire of this natural lust is hotter than that of all other lusts, and together with its heat is mingled also its corrupt sweetness, wherefrom two things may be learned, the pleasantness of the love of Christ, and the near end of the corrupt lust. The fire of the spirit which is mingled in us would have been able to put an end to and destroy this fire of natural lust, if the desire had been without fruit and the freedom which is in us without labours of fortitude; well then [p. 498] was the enemy set to do battle against freedom, that when he was overcome by patient endurance that freedom might become apparent, and the strength thereof might be known, and its power tried. Therefore let us not be slack in respect of this lust which is preserved in us as the cause of profit, and so let it become unto us the cause of loss, for he that from trafficking for gain doeth it for loss is an ignorant fool, and whosoever maketh to be the object of wickedness that which was given unto us as the material for that which is good, is a wicked man and the opponent of good.
Let us then be strong in the war against this evil lust which although it be a good thing when coupled with marriage in the world, is accounted a vice if it |476 be wrought by disciples; for not every thing is good for every man, even though it be very fair and good in its nature, for riches in the nature of their creation by their Maker are good, but if solitaries, who are commanded not to have two tunics,1 and not to take care for the morrow,2 acquire them, the possession thereof to them is a vice. And the eating of flesh and the drinking of wine is pure unto those who devote themselves unto the life of the world, but for those who of their own will have given themselves unto the maintenance of the election of the discipleship of Christ, it is not right to make use of things, except for necessity's sake. And, moreover, good [p. 499] and fair also are the powers and dominions of this world, for it is written, "There is no dominion which is not from God",3 but for those who have separated themselves from human habitation, and have promised to do great and sublime things, to desire human grades of honour is [a subject] for rebuke and reproach. And dwelling in cities and villages, and the habitation in the world, and life and intercourse among the children of men are not blameworthy, but for those who have become destitute for the love of God, and who have once cast off the world of their own free-will, and have gone forth to become solitaries and ascetics outside it, the dwelling among and intercourse with the children of men are unto them subjects for reprehension and blame; and there are many things like these, the doing of which is blameless unto those who have not already bound themselves by a covenant against them, but if they be done by those who have promised to abstain from them they are blameworthy. |477
In this manner, then, is also the lust for carnal intercourse. And well was it implanted in [our] nature, for it stab-lisheth the world, and is the root and fruit of human nature, and it bringeth back and giveth unto the race of the children of men that of which the death of the penalty despoiled them and took away. But consider well, O disciple, that although it hath been implanted in our nature, yet was it stirred up by the transgression of the commandment, [p. 500] and by the eating of the fruit did its motion appear, that, as in a parable, it might be known beforehand that it had power only over carnal beings, being absolutely useless unto the world of spiritual beings. For the types of two kinds of life appeared in the heads of our race, the spiritual and the carnal, the world of the spirit and the world of the body, the first Adam and the last Adam. Before they ate the food of the transgression of the law wherefrom was moved also the lust which was hidden in the members, their whole rule and conduct of life were spiritual, and in everything were they moved spiritually, in holy thoughts, and pure minds, in the knowledge which was worthy of God, in the understanding which was clean and pure from the abominable motions of lust, and after the manner of the spiritual hosts was their dwelling in Paradise----for they only appeared in the form of the body, because by the knowlege of the spirit they were secretly dwelling in heaven. And the Creator made Adam first of all to experience spiritual things, because He wished him to be the heir thereof, but the freedom of Adam lusted after the things of the world, although they came into existence and were established by the word of the Creator, and his will desired them, and he went |478 forth after them; now this is evident from the eating of the fruit which took place by the transgression of the command. For the eating of that fruit was the beginning of all lusts, according to the word of our teacher the Apostle, who said, "I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not lust, and in this [p. 501] commandment I found an occasion of sin, and every lust was perfected in me".4
So then the lust of the spirit precedeth the lust of the body in us, as the history of the head of our race sheweth, for Adam came down from a high to a low estate, and from the lust of the spirit he went forth to the lust of the body, and from the life of heavenly beings he abased himself unto that of earthly beings, and from the sight of the beauty of God with which he could never be sated, he turned to look upon the form of the beauty of his wife. For until Adam had turned himself unto that which was outside, the things which were outside did not appear unto him. and until he had turned himself unto the world, the lusts of the world were not set in array before his vision, of all of which the eating of the fruit became the cause and origin; and as in the one case all lusts are produced by the belly, even so also in the other from it all vices take their rise.
Now fornication was the first thorn which sprang from the field of the lust of the belly, and immediately it grew up it became like a thorn to the eye in the sight of the understanding, and prevented it from looking at God. For this lust doth not make dark the sight of those only who have never seen, but also of |479 those who have many times been spectators of divine beauties; and if it happen that they are held fast by this passion, their motions are blinded, and it standeth before them like a covering, and preventeth them from seeing the much-to-be-desired beauty of Christ, [p. 502] and they are distracted by the trouble to find that which they have lost, and [only] by heavy labours do they find it. Now there are some who are quite blind, like those who are born blind from their mother's womb, and there are some who have become blind after they have been born and have seen the light, and through some injury which hath happened to them subsequently the bright vision of their thoughts hath been blinded, and for these was the remembrance of the heavenly light preserved, even at the time when they received the injury; and as he who hath become blind remembereth the natural light which he saw before his blindness, even so also doth he who hath become blinded by passions remember the spiritual light which he saw before [it took place]. Now whosoever is worthy of the sight of this light doth not receive it as by report, but as one who remembereth his former enlightenment, and when he maketh a comparison between it and his present blindness, he sigheth heavily because he hath been abased from the one condition to the other, and because he hath exchanged one condition of desire for another. So therefore watchfulness is more necessary for those who have seen and felt than for those who have never seen and perceived this spiritual light, even as the watchfulness of the rich man, on account of his riches, is greater than that of the poor man who possesseth nothing, and thus also constant wakefulness is necessary for him that hath |480 discovered by his own purity the beauty of the divine vision, lest he lose that which he hath found. And as when a man turneth away [p. 503] his eye from before him and looketh behind him, or as when he looketh at the darkness after having looked at the sun, even so is it with the mind which from contemplating God turneth itself away from Him, and looketh upon abominable lust. For until the soul hath destroyed the beauty of the Eternal Being, it cannot subject itself to lust for the corrupt beauty of the body; for without beauty, it lusteth after beauty, and without sight, it looketh for sight. And because the desirable and fair beauteousness of Christ is not depicted before it, it is fettered by the sight of the beauty of the body; and because wakefulness is not aroused in it, sleepiness is awakened therein; and because the fire of spiritual love is cold in it, carnal love breaketh into flame therein. For until a man perceiveth the beauty of himself, he beginneth not to perceive the beauty of Christ with which he can never be sated, the nature of which is that it fettereth naturally with love for Him every soul that feeleth it and perceiveth it. And as in those who lust after the beauty of the body the love thereof is moved in their members naturally, even so also whosoever arriveth at the beauty of the desire of Christ is moved perforce naturally unto love for Him, and nothing is able to sever from him that fetter of love.
And if the man, who is held in chains by the lust of the body and by the beautiful appearance of the corrupt body----causes of the dissolution of which surround it on every side----and by its impurity [p. 504] and corruptibility, despiseth every thing, and treateth |481 with contempt the censure and reproof of everyone, and the carnal love which is in him conquereth the force of all the fear with which he fighteth on all sides, how very much more is it seemly unto the soul which loveth Christ, and which longeth for the sight of His beauty, to be loosed from all the yoke of fear, and to cut through and pass over the power of all laws, and for all beautiful things to be held to be abominable in its sight when it compareth them with the vision of Him that it loveth? For it is as if a man, being led captive by natural lust, through the absence of a beautiful person near at hand were to love a blind woman, whose form was loathsame, and whose face was hideous; now if it were to happen that he should see a pretty face, and should look upon the desirable beauty of another person, when he should compare the beauty which he had newly found with the hateful thing with love for which he was first of all fettered, he would despise and reject the former lust, and would chide himself because of that whereto he had linked his love, and henceforth the passion for the beauty of the new face would rule supreme over all his motions, and he would be led captive and his whole self be smitten with lust for that object, especially when he compared it with that odious thing which he had loved at first.
And thus also doth it happen unto the mind when, through the want of beauty, it is held fast by carnal beauty, that is to say, when through the absence of the sight of the beauty of Christ [p. 505] it is snared by the sight of carnal beauty, and it lusteth after that which is unworthy of lust, and it is set in a blaze with the fire of corrupt natural love, which ought not to be called love at all, but a foul and loathsome passion. |482 Now if it happen that to this man, either by his own love, or by the indication of others, or by the act of Grace, the desirable beauty of that uncreated and self-existent Being be shewn, and he perceiveth this incorruptible beauty he will straightway forget the natural beauty, and it will be turned round to him before his sight in all its hideousness, and he will chide himself because he was fettered by such a thing, and because he was led into subjection by such a power, and because such a weak thing was able to overcome his strength, and he will rebuke his life because through laxity it was made subject unto the corrupt love of the body. For everything is changed for that which is its counterpart, pleasure for pleasure, honour for honour, riches for riches, glory for glory, happiness for happiness, lust for lust, and beauty for beauty; and when all these things are compared with one another ---- these which are above with those which are below ---- those who perceive sublime things will reject the choice of all those which are inferior, and will long earnestly for those which are above, those which are glorious, those which are beautiful, those which are exalted, and those which are fair. For it is the nature of the lust of the soul to lust after the things which are above it, [p. 506] and when it lusteth in this manner, it lusteth according to nature, but when it lusteth after those which are inferior unto it, its lust is outside nature, that is to say, its power of discernment is covered over by participation in that which is opposed thereunto, and then it lusteth after that thing which is its contrary, or if it desireth it, it is without lust. For no man among those who have seen the sun would forsake it, and long earnestly for the darkness, except the deeds which are worthy |483 of darkness be stirring in him; and when the gloom of sin becometh associated with natural darkness, he lusteth in darkness for darkness, for it is well known that lust itself is a blind thing and without sight, for he lusteth for one thing after the other and discerneth not the difference.
Now that men should be held fast by the sight of the lust of the body [sheweth] cowardice, especially if those passions from which they have been loosed return and make them subject unto them, and if after they have been worthy of the sight of spiritual beauty they are held fast in the love of carnal beauty; and justly they deserve to be abominated because they have exchanged one thing for another, and instead of the beauty of the King's daughter, the fairest of all, they have lusted after a wretched blind thing, which is the most hideous of all women. What then? And if he who is worthy to feel the beauty of the soul be not filled therewith, how very much more will he remain unsatisfied with the beauty of Christ, Who is naturally the much desired [p. 507] and beloved beauty, and there is no beauty which can be compared with His, and no appearance which is like unto His, and no fairness which is so beloved as His, no image which is so dearly beloved as His, and no features which are so much to be desired as His, because He is wholly and entirely to be longed for. For there is not in Him one member that is beautiful, and another that is on the contrary odious and hideous, even as it doth happen in the corrupt body which, having one beautiful member in it, hath another which by its hideousness taketh away from its beauty. Sometimes a beautiful form hath ugly feet, and it happeneth that beautiful eyes are accompanied by other members |484 which are of a lower grade, and of less value and inferior, and a beautifully constructed arrangement of members is usually found to possess some defect in stature; and finally, carnal beauty is never found to be wholly perfect, and remote, and free from blemishes, it being ordained in wisdom by the Creator that carnal beauty should never be perfect in its beauty, that whosoever should be held fast by the lust thereof might soon be free therefrom. For when a hideous member is placed by the side of one that is fair, and one that is deformed by one that is beautiful, whosoever is held fast by lust for that which is fair is driven away by the sight of the odious member to which it is united, and by it and through it the lust of this beauty is dissipated; and there springeth up by its side a reproof unto whomsoever is held fast by the lust thereof, and together with the sickness is mingled [p. 508] also the medicine, and by the side of the disease there is found healing also, and within the beauty thou canst perceive that which is odious.
Now these things were thus constituted because that Universal Cause, that Beauty of all beauties, did not desire that the beauty of our soul should lust after the beauty which is alien unto Him, and that if it happened that by reason of a sleepy mind hideousness appeared unto us in the place of beauty, and that we were snared in corrupt lust through the sight of beautiful members, this lust might be dissipated by two causes, that is to say, by the odiousness of deformed members, and by the fair beauty of the celestial appearance, so that that which is odious being remote from us below, and the contemplation of a sight to be desired receiving us above, we might be mingled with and smitten |485 by this beauty with which we can never be sated, that it might be poured out wholly in us, that we might be mingled therewith, and that its spiritual form might become embodied in our soul.
Let us then not err and lust after things which are not worthy of lust and [so] destroy the spiritual lust which is mingled in our soul. For Adam lusted after the beauty of the fruit, and was led therefrom to the sight of the beauty of Eve, and the lust of the belly entered in and roused up the lust of the body, and with the lust for carnal intercourse there spring up in us also other lusts. Now this lust was implanted in us for the continuance of the human race, but it is right for those who are not ordained for the continuance of the world to overcome the motion of this lust, for the vow [p. 509] of disciples hath put them outside the world, and they have become superfluities and aliens thereunto in everything by their covenant, that is to say, they have become above the world, and as they stand on the height of righteousness----according to the promise of our Redeemer unto them----it is right that those who have once gone forth from the world should become also outside the lust which is the stablisher of the world.
Now the actions of these two lusts which cleave to each other----I mean the lust of the belly and the lust for carnal intercourse----appear unto us in different ways; one support-eth the life of our person, and the other preserveth the natural life, for the lust of the belly supporteth the life of our person, but the lust for carnal intercourse preserveth nature in the succession of generations. If it had been possible that our life could be supported in the world without carnal wants, the commandment of our Vivifier would have prohibited |486 us from eating and drinking, but because it was impossible that a limit for the continuance of our life should be laid down, He prohibited us from carnal intercourse, for He did not place us in the world to continue it, but only for it to be a place of contest so that by spiritual fighting we might obtain from him the crown of triumph. And because unto him that fighteth an adversary is necessary----for without one no fighting can take place----He left this lust in our members, that it might be unto us as an adversary, by the fighting against and overcoming of whom the victory of the athlete might appear, [p. 510] but if it happened that he were vanquished, his weakness might be accused, saying, "He was conquered by his weakness, and not by the strength of the adversary." For it is not because lust is stronger than we that it overcometh us, but because of our own feebleness and want of strength, for if it were in the nature of lust to conquer, it would conquer every man, and would conquer always, but it is not so, for at one time it conquereth, and at another it is conquered, at one time it is defeated and at another it defeateth; in that it is overcome the might of our will appeareth, and in that it vanquisheth and conquereth us the weakness of our freedom appeareth, as well as the contempt and sloth which are in us concerning our own persons.
Now until lust taketh strength from thee it is unable to conquer thee, that is to say, it doth not even dare to stand up against thee in war until thy will permitteth it so to do; and take the experience of this in thine own person: so long as thou wishest, it sleepeth, and when thou wouldst, thou rousest it up. If it happen that the natural motions rouse it up beyond thy will, |487 it is easy for thee to extinguish its fire with a small breath of wind----if thou hast [any] strength in thy soul to send such a breath of wind against it----but it will not be extinguished by a breath of wind of the power of that body in which when [lust] hath been stirred up it leadeth into subjection unto its will all its senses, for that body, which hath been conquered thereby, is not able to blow, and if it blow it extinguisheth not [the fire]. But when the soul standeth [p. 511] in the power of its nature, and it hath gained the mastery over the discretion of its thoughts, and hath gathered together unto itself all its motions that they may be moved by itself and not by the body, then, whenever it pleaseth, with exceeding great power can it send forth the wind of rebuke against lust, and quickly, as it were in the twinkling of an eye, it extinguisheth that natural fire which creepeth in its members. For when the body is directed by the soul, all its rule and life are sound and healthy, and, as is seemly unto a man, he is led by the uprightness which befitteth rational beings; but when the wishes of the body direct the soul a man is led by the rule of the beasts, and the motions of his lusts being ministered unto by him without [his] perceiving [it], he is in consequence deprived of that repentance which cleaveth unto discretion. So long as the soul is mingled with the body in its thoughts it cannot direct the body, and it can neither see its own self, nor do the lusts of the body see it, and its own passions are not received thereby, but like a blind man it is deprived of the sight of itself, and of the sight of everything; and thus also is the soul when it is blinded by the passions of sin, for it neither seeth its own self, nor that which is outside it. |488
So therefore it is necessary for us to set the distinction between the soul and the body before that which existeth between the body and the soul, because it is a natural mingling which was implanted in us by the Creator, and it belongeth not unto us to make the distinction; but if a man wisheth to die unto divine life, that is to say, unto the power of distinguishing the thoughts of the soul from [p. 512] those of the body, it is placed in the power of our own freedom [so to do], and whenever we please it is easy for us to separate the thoughts of our soul from those of our body. And we have learned this distinction from the Holy Books, and from them we have received the power to make the soul to dwell by itself in the house of the body, and therefore, as in a parable, the Spirit of God made this known, saying, "He maketh the solitary one to dwell in a house." 5 Now here He calleth properly the good mind, "solitary one," for although it be domiciled in the body, it participateth not in the passions thereof, and it linketh not the indication of love unto those who are not worthy of its love, but being moved solely in and with wonder at the majesty of the glory of God, it dwelleth in the house of silence, and He linketh unto such a holy thought the name "solitary one." For as the man, who hath made himself an alien unto the world, and who becometh extraneous unto the giving, and taking, and unto its riches and pleasures, and unto everything that is therein, is called "solitary", even so is called "solitary" that thought which, although it dwelleth in the body, is an alien unto and is remote from all the lusts thereof, and to |489 the ministrations unto its pleasures, and which liveth alone unto itself, and meditateth upon itself; and through this constant meditation there are revealed thereunto the beauty of its soul, and the fair splendour of its person. And well did the prophet demonstrate the similarity of the solitary nature of this good mind unto that solitariness which God possesseth in respect of everything, [p. 513] for as God, though mingled in everything, is remote and distant from everything by the solitariness of His nature, even so also is the solitary mind, although it is mingled with the body, remote therefrom, saying, "God is in His holy habitation," 6 and then he (i. e., the Psalmist) adds afterwards, "God maketh the solitary one to dwell in a house." 7 Now why was it necessary to place the latter words side by side with the former, except that God might give testimony concerning the solitary nature of [this good] mind? For as God is in His holy habitation, that is to say, He Himself is in it, and everything is separated and remote from Him, although He is nigh unto everything, even so also is the solitary mind, though near into everything, remote therefrom.
And moreover, it is seemly that the mind by the power of its own nature should draw nigh unto everything, and should be a spectator and discoverer of the knowledge which is sown in everything, and should not allow anything to draw nigh unto itself, because God in His infinite nature is nigh unto everything, while everything is remote from Him, because it is finite. And thus also is it right for the mind which hath the power to do: being near unto everything by |490 reason of its freedom, all things must be remote from it, because it is not compatible therewith, that is to say, the things which are carnal, for unless the mind standeth in its solitary nature it cannot gather unto itself the power of its nature, for so long as it is mingled with the body its power is filched away and dissipated on the members of the body, and it is impoverished and deserted by its own power, and it becometh subject unto lusts, and becometh a being who is under orders and not one who giveth them. For when [p. 514] the soul hath connexion with the body, and is subjected to the goadings of its desires, it becometh subservient unto the lust thereof and not unto itself, that is to say, with the body it lusteth after the things after which the body lusteth, arid becometh a stranger unto the healthy lust of its own nature. Now the healthy lust of the soul is to become unto us a means of trial whether the soul be moved by the lust of its own nature [or not]. Whenever we lust after the things which are good, and beautiful motions rise in our soul, the soul is moved by the lust of its own nature, and therefore it lusteth after the things which are profitable, and after the things which are spiritual in the service of noble deeds; for the lust of the body is not mighty enough to subdue the lust of the spirit except this lust receive power from the soul to fight therewith, for lust by itself is a weak thing, and therefore it taketh to help itself other things in order that that which it was not able to do by its own strength, it may be able to do with the help of that of others.
Now the things which aid this lust are:----the lust of the belly, pleasures, sport, goodly raiment, human converse, talk which is based upon lusts, the repetition |491 of the [various] kinds of fornication, the beauty of the face, the sight of the beauty of the body, the wandering of the mind, and the remembrance of business affairs; these and such like things doth lust invoke to its aid, and then it beginneth to fight against the soul, and to set in array the battle [p. 515] of its goadings, and these make known concerning the weakness of lust, for if it had been able to overcome by itself, it would have had no need of these things.
What then dost thou need, O disciple? If thou wishest to overcome this lust which fighteth against thee, thou must first of all clip its wings, and destroy the hosts which it hath called unto its-aid, and cut off its members, and uncover, and dig up, and lift up its roots, and when it remaineth by itself thou canst overcome it without trouble. Now when lust beginneth to fight against thee, do not bring unto it that fuel with which it is set in a blaze, but gather together at a distance therefrom everything which can feed it, and when it hath blazed its appointed time within itself, it will die down and become extinguished on the place where it is.
Take therefore from it first of all meat and drink, eat bread by weight, drink water by measure, keep thyself from carnal pleasures, load thyself with the afflictions of prudence, yoke thy body beneath the weight of labours, let it be tortured by hunger and afflicted by thirst, let it be vexed with watching, let it crave for sleep and let it not sleep. If it wisheth to snatch slumber, drive it away therefrom, if its want constraineth it to eat, [first] reckon with it and then shalt thou give it food, and briefly, thou shalt not give it gratification in anything, for without doubt, pleasures are the begetters of lust, and moreover, besides these, |492 thou must cut off the primary causes of which [p. 516] I have spoken to thee. Thou shalt not give thine ear unto the talk of the conversation of lust; the stories of its various forms shall not be pleasant unto thee when they are repeated before thee; the sight of the person with a passion for whom thou art held fast shall not be perpetually with thee; take the debasing form of the beauty thereof from within thy mind; and uproot wholly from thy soul the remembrance of the beauty which hath led thee captive; for so long as thou standest in the remembrance thereof it will inflame thee. For as fire setteth light unto fuel when it is near thereunto, even so also doth lust set light unto and blaze in the members through the sight of and conversation on these matters, and when it hath taken fire it is not every man who can extinguish it; fight then, and overcome little things that great things may not overcome thee.
Now therefore if thou wilt make thyself a stranger unto the conversation concerning the things of which I have spoken, and thou wilt beat off from thee the matters which are the leaders of lust, thou wilt shut the door in the face of lust, and it will not enter in to have dominion over thee; but if thou art lax before the things which are feeble, and thou art overcome by them, how much more shalt thou be defeated by lust and thrown down to the ground! But in order that labour may not increase for thee and thou fall in the war, from which thou shalt or shalt not go forth, make remote from thee the things which sweep thee into the midst of the war, and be thou alien thereunto, that thou mayest be an alien unto lust; tread under foot the daughters that thou mayest tread under foot also the mother, cut off the members that thou mayest cut off |493 also the head, [p. 517] clip the wings that the body may remain in the depth of defeat. Thou shalt not uttter the word of fornication, lest thou comest to the deed of fornication. Thou shalt not receive the remembrance of lust into thy soul, lest through lust thou perform the act thereof. Thou shalt not make thy stomach heavy by overmuch food, lest the fire of lust kindle in thy members. Thou shalt not drench thy members with a superabundance of wine, lest a superfluity of the irritation of lust be poured into thy whole body. Dainty meats shall not be delightful unto thee, lest the sweetness of lust be pleasant unto thee. Remove thine eye from a vision of beauty that thy soul may be empty of motions. Shut the door of thy hearing to the speech of lust, lest thy soul become a constant dwelling thereof. Let not the fair appearance of thy body be beautiful in thy sight, and look not upon the beauty of the appearance of others. Make not to stumble, and thou shalt not be made to stumble; trip not up, and thou shalt not be tripped up; defile not, and thou shalt not be defiled; have no intercourse with women, and thou shalt not be united unto them; flee, that they may flee from thee; put on wrath against lust, and drive it out from the house of thy soul like an enemy; in the season of lust make use of wrath and not of love, because love is wont to become a path unto lust. For many have been snared to change from spiritual love unto carnal love, and although the beginning of their love was fair, the end thereof was hideous and loathsome.
Let thy passions fight with those of thy passions which thou feelest to be the opponents [p. 518] of each other; but when thou feelest that one of thy evil passions afflicteth thee, set thou in opposition thereunto that |494 passion which is the enemy thereof; and especially art thou bound to fight against this foul passion of lust with the passions which are its opposites. The passion of wrath is evil, but in the season of lust it is very necessary; hard too is the seizure of anger, but in the hour of war it is very useful to thee; and, moreover, besides these things, seek not to excuse thyself from hatred moving in thee, because at the season when carnal love pricketh it is very helpful. By all means then set this passion before thy face at the season when lust is stirred up, that thou mayest deliver thy life from death and thy soul from complete destruction, and thou wilt carry the example of thy warning at that season unto those who are fighting unto death for their carnal lives.
For there are many who through fear of death fight unto death, either with wild beasts, or thieves, or adversaries, or noxious reptiles, and they stand up in this war in no ordinary manner, but they direct all their strength to the salvation of their lives; and every faculty which produceth might in body and in soul is stirred up in them at that season. [p. 519] And they put on threatening, and anger, and wrath, and noise, and battle, and they utter cries which are full of terror, and they throw themselves into a fierce rage, and turn the peaceful aspect of their faces into the menace of anger, and with hands, and feet, and mind, and members----that is to say, with their whole body and soul----doth their fighting take place; and because they are afraid lest they shall die, they draw nigh unto the border of death because of the fear thereof, and all these things take place that their mortal life may be delivered from death. |495
And similarly, [O disciple,] do thou also strive earnestly for the sake of thy soul's life, and be thou menacing, and filled with wrath, and cruel, and angry at the season of lust, and say not, "These things are not seemly for me," for at that season many things menace thee, and war, without anger, never taketh place, and strife, without rage, is never brought to a close. If thou standest up in war it is right that thou shouldst put on wrath, that through thy appearance the enemy who fighteth with thee may be terrified, and flee; whosoever sheweth a glad face unto his adversary hateth himself. Thou shalt not, then, shew a glad face unto lust, lest thou make it lie down beside thee, but look upon it with a malignant eye, and it will straightway flee from thee, like a whore in the marketplace----for lust is like a whore 8-----for when it [p. 520] moveth itself in the members, if the mind shew a glad face thereunto, it straightway layeth hold upon it, and forceth it to be united thereunto, and it lifteth up and layeth upon it the corrupt yoke of itself, that it may be a slave and in subjection unto it, and not one who giveth it its commands. But if the thought of his soul shall recollect itself, and become clothed with the garb of gravity, and shall put on the dress of modesty, and against the wantoness of lust shall appear unto lust with a severe and fearful face, straightway will lust leave it and depart, not only from it, but also from the place in which it hath been stirred up----that is to say, from all the members of the body----and as from a house which |496 is not its own it fleeth and goeth forth; but because the hideousness of this thing is not apparent unto every man, namely, of the chaste mind becoming subject unto corrupt lust, and becoming that upon which the feet thereof may trample, I will give a little example in order that the disciple may see and understand.
Now it is as if it should happen that one of the men who are renowned for modest and chaste behaviour, or for a grave, and dignified, and serious life, were to carry a whore upon his shoulder through the market-places of the city, and with this mark of wantonness should walk about through the streets and open places of the city. For trembling would come upon all those who saw [it], and sorrow of heart would lay hold upon every man because of what was done, and the story thereof would become a saying and a by-word wherever it was heard; in this plain manner must we look upon the hidden mind when its chastity is made subject unto wanton lust, and it giveth itself to be a seat and dwelling-place [p. 521] wherein it may abide. Now this sight is much more hideous and loathsome than that which would have been wrought in the market-place? of the city, for there body carrieth body, and flesh joineth unto its fellow flesh, but here it is not so, because the spiritual mind is contaminated by union with the lust of the flesh, and intercourse which is outside the law ariseth, and connexion which is not wrought according to nature.
For when the mind whoreth with lust, this is fornication which is outside the law. Now there is a distinction even in fornication: there is the fornication of the body, and the fornication of the soul, and the fornication of the spirit, and there is the intercourse of the body, |497 and intercourse of the soul, and intercourse of the spirit. The fornication of the body is the adulterous act which taketh place outside the law with a strange woman; and the fornication of the soul is when the thoughts thereof have intercourse secretly with the lust of fornication, even though the deed be not performed outwardly; but the fornication of the spirit is when the soul hath intercourse with devils, or when it receiveth agreement with strange doctrines. And again the intercourse of the body is that which it hath with a lawful wife; and the intercourse of the soul is when it receiveth and mingleth in itself the knowledge of the nature of affairs, and the understanding of the dispensation of everything which moveth beneath this life; and the intercourse of the spirit is when there is mingled therein divine doctrine and all spiritual things. Let us then have a care to be free [p. 522] first of all from the fornication of the thoughts, which is itself the fornication of the soul, and we shall also be free from the fornication of the body. It is not good that the mind should have intercourse with the body, but it is good that the body should be an associate with the soul in fortitude. Lift up thy soul from connexion with the body unto the height of its nature, that being exalted unto the height of a sincere life and conduct, it may also raise therewith the body out of the depth of lusts. The soul is ordained to be queen over the body, and like a skilful ruler and charioteer to hold the reins of all its senses. It is not seemly that thy soul should do that which thy body loveth, but it is seemly that thy body should be in subjection unto the works which the soul loveth, which are: a will which accepteth God, and turneth the body from all its heaviness unto the lightness of a chaste |498 life, and maketh it to live delightfully in the pure air of His holiness; and it changeth its laxity into its fortitude, and its heaviness into its lightness, and its love into its love, and its lust into its lust, and its needs into its needs, and its grossness into its refinedness, and its carnalness into its spiritualness, and its hunger into satiety; and finally, all things which belong unto it by knowledge it changeth into all things which belong unto the spirit, by which they are moved.
For when the soul hath intercourse with the body, this intercourse is adultery and fornication; but if the body be united unto the soul in one agreement, and be raised above from below in a right union, [p. 523] it is the intercourse which is according unto the law, which is implanted naturally in the person of each one of us by the Creator. For behold the connection which men have with women according to nature was ordained by the command of the Creator at the beginning, and when it taketh place according to the will of the Creator, it is called lawful connection; but if it be performed in any other way it is called adultery and fornication, and as in a mystery this parable is depicted in reference unto the soul and body. For if the soul hath intercourse with the body it is fornication, but if the body hath intercourse with the soul, it is an union according to the law, and towards this meaning also inclineth the words of the Book which saith, "A man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife."9 Now it doth not say concerning the woman that she shall leave her parents, and cleave unto the man, although according to the custom of the world women do actually leave their |499 natural parents, and cleave unto their husbands, and it appeareth that, according to custom, the opposite of the words of the Book are done in nature; so therefore that which is said of the man is a parable which is based on the body, which shall leave everything in which it hath gratification, and shall be united unto the soul. For if the Book had said, "A woman shall leave her parents, and cleave unto a man," it would have taught that the soul should have intercourse with the body, but now that it hath spoken concerning the man, "He shall leave his parents and be united [p. 524] unto his wife," the words indicate to us a mystery of doctrine, and exhort the body to deny itself its pleasures, and to hate its lusts, and to have connection with the soul in all good things.
Now when the body hath intercourse with the soul, and the soul with the spirit, and through the spirit with the Trinity, in very deed are accomplished the words, "The Lord is over all, and in us all",10 and, "Ye are the temple of the Lord, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you".11 But Paul also frighteneth that soul which alloweth the body to become a minister unto fornication, saying, "Whosoever destroyeth the temple of God, God will destroy".12 And hereby he teacheth the soul not to allow the body to be corrupted by the union of fornication, because from this injury accrueth unto it, for together with the destruction of the body by its natural lusts, will the soul be condemned by the judgment which is for ever. And well did God ordain this retribution for the soul, though it is decreed for both the soul and the body by Him, |500 because the soul in allowing the body to be debased unto the lusts of its nature will destroy it, and being able to restrain it, restraineth it not, and having the power to make it taste the sweetness of the lust for itself, the sweetness of its own corrupt lust, that is, the motions, and passions, and forms of which belong to shame, was pleasant unto it. For when lust moveth the whole instrument of the body, and boweth down and bringeth low the fortitude of a man beneath the work [p. 525] of sin, it destroyeth his knowledge, and ob-scureth his understanding, and maketh dark his power of observation, for until the soul fulfilleth its will to be subject unto the pleasure of lust, it is impossible for lust to conquer it, and to darken in it the light of its power of discernment. And, moreover, lust and the adversary that is its helper, shew great solicitude in extinguishing the light of knowledge from the house of the soul, that lust may easily, as in the dark, perform the works of shame, for as that which is good panteth for the light, even so also doth lust rejoice in the coming of darkness, and for this reason it emitteth its smoke and bloweth it into the light of the soul, and extinguisheth it; and when its whole person remaineth in darkness, it doeth everything, the things which are manifest, and the things which are hidden, as in the darkness.
Now in the same manner in which the eye of the body is ashamed of the light, the which having extinguished it draweth nigh unto the works of sin, even so also is the vision of the soul ashamed of the hidden sight of God which is therein, and for this reason lust extinguisheth this light with which the soul is accustomed to look at God, and then it leadeth the soul unto the intercourse of its own work. And the soul is |501 ashamed to draw nigh unto the works of sin so long as the light of the sight of God shineth thereupon, even as also the body is ashamed of its partner, and the vision is ashamed of the sight so long as the sight of the light of nature is before it. And as sin is wrought absolutely without shame in the darkness, even so also doth the soul commit fornication with the body boldly and without shame when the light of the remembrance [p. 526] of God is extinguished in it; for in order that this sin may be pleasant to the soul, it extinguished the light, for so long as it remembereth God, it sinneth not, and if it happen that through slumber it becometh debased unto the work of sin, the lust thereof is not pleasant unto it, because the fear of God seizeth and carrieth off the pleasure of the working thereof.
Now this light of the remembrance of God worketh two things in the soul: it either beateth it back that it sin not, or if it lusteth and sinneth, it performeth the works of sin in fear, and trembling, and terror. For as in committing sin the body is in terror when it knoweth that the arrival of spectators is near, even so also the soul is terrified and feareth the advent of the sight of God; and since it is this light only which is able to drive away the soul from this noxious thing, it is right that at all seasons it should hold it fast near it, and that it should be near it continually. And the soul should not allow the remembrance of God to depart from it, and should be held firmly by the pleasure of conversation therewith; for so long as it is linked in converse therewith, it is not reduced to converse with lust, and so long as the light of the vision of God is kindled therein darkness cannot enter into its |502 enlightened boundaries with authority, andso long as the lust of the soul is mingled with the lust of the spirit, it mingleth not its thoughts with the lust of the body.
The soul which leaveth lusting after that which belongeth unto itself, and descendeth to lust after that which belongeth not unto itself is worthy to be laughed at, for to the wise soul the lust of the body becometh a proof that [p. 527] the lust which itself belongeth to the soul should move therein. What then? If the body lusteth after that which belongeth to itself, the soul lusteth not after the things which belong to itself; and if the body liveth in its natural motions, the soul liveth not in its living motions. If the lust of the body be restrained by many things, it overcometh them all, and moveth thereby, that is to say it maketh it to move within itself; but the soul which is free from all contrary things cannot be moved by the beautiful lust of its nature.
Now, therefore, it is right that the disciple should not depart from the motion of the lust of the body, though he should not receive the knowledge thereof, but when he seeth that it hath been stirred up he must watch with knowledge that he may be a spectator thereof; and if he be one who hath obtained the mastery over his freedom, and hath acquired the power of the nature of the soul, not even when it hath become stirred up in his members is he disturbed and afraid. But he standeth on the height, and he is a spectator, and he observeth how it hath been stirred up, and by what causes, and how it began, and how it hath grown up, and he alloweth the heat thereof to obtain dominion over the members of his body, |503 and to shed itself throughout him wholly. And in proportion as it groweth in the members, he also increas-eth in the soul the thoughts of fortitude, and as it becometh hot, he also kindleth the lust of the soul as an antidote, and he placeth it as in a place of strife, and he sitteth down and becometh a spectator on the height of knowledge. And lust throweth out its hands and layeth hold upon all the members of the body, and wrestleth therewith like an athlete with his opponent, while the understanding [p. 528] sitteth down, and becometh a spectator on the height of knowledge, and from the strife it gathereth instruction, and it learneth the victory of both sides, and the defeat which is found with both; and being free from the strife, it becometh possessed of the knowledge of the contest; for the understanding doth not allow itself to enter in and be fettered by the lust which fighteth with the body, for if it were not able to become a spectator of the fight, it would not be able to gather together and to acquire instruction therefrom. For as the body is unable to become a spectator of the fight so long as it standeth in the strife of the battle, and lust cannot see itself so long as battle is set in array against the body, even so also the mind cannot be a spectator of this fight if it alloweth itself to be mingled with the passion of lust, because the passion of lust is blind, and whosoever is laid hold of thereby it maketh blind also, and lust blindeth the eye of the mind, lest if it became a spectator it would loose itself from the yoke thereof. If, therefore, thou hast confidence in the might of thy mind, be not afraid if lust move in thy members, for it will become the cause of many virtues unto thee, if thou possessest the knowledge which can make profit |504 out of trafficking in losses. For first of all thou must have material wherewith to fight, for if thou hast no adversary, there can be no battle, and if [p. 529] there be no battle, victory cannot be known, and if at the end of the strife no victory be revealed, the crown of triumph and glory cannot be awarded. Take heart then in thy battle, and be not conquered by the lust which riseth in thee, but take heed that there are no exits thereunto through strange emissions, and, moreover, let not the mind have pleasure therein secretly, and commit incorporeal fornication with a form which hath no person. For the habit of lust is that, when it hath not near at hand an actual body, it committeth fornication with a shadow of a form, and with the form of a person instead of a person, and he that committeth fornication [thus] embraceth that which is not nigh unto him, and instead of a body, it hath union with the form in his soul, and instead of with members, it committeth adultery in its thoughts, and instead of a body, it polluteth itself. For when the passion of fornication hath laid hold upon the thoughts and blazeth therein, by reason of its superfluity, even without material, it poureth out its fulness, and having no incitement from without, lust through the torrent thereof presseth to go forth, and it seeketh means, and findeth ways, ant! kindleth in the body the fire of the goading which destroyeth.
Now in the manner in which divine lust seeketh means whereby it may minister unto its desires and may please God, doth also the lust of fornication seek for itself the ways whereby it may minister unto its pleasures, and provoke God to wrath, but in thy war, [p. 530] O understanding mind, set [the one] lust against |505 the other, and thou wilt see soon that the lust of the discerning body is overcome by that of the soul. For spiritual things are in every respect stronger than carnal things, and whilst thou holdest the reins of lust and of the body which strive one with the other, and art, from the height upon which thou sittest in knowledge, a spectator of their fight, thou shalt carry off the crown from between them both, that is to say, the body which hath intercourse with the soul, for whom incorruptible life is laid up by its intercourse therewith, will take the crown.
For the body naturally mingleth with the soul, but lust entereth therein from without through the transgression of the command, and because we are unable to separate the body from the soul, we can, if we wish, cut off and eject lust from the body. Now the body was not created to be a house for evil lust in the manner that it was constructed to be a dwelling-place for the soul, for if the body had been made by the Creator to be a dwelling-place for lust the divine commandments would not everywhere have driven lust therefrom and have cried out with various threatening voices on all sides, on one side judgment, on another threats, on another torture, on another Gehenna, on another vengeance, ,on another gnashing of teeth, on another unending stripes, on another everlasting punishment. And besides these things the body shall be chastised with pains near at hand, and it shall be smitten with sicknesses [p. 531] which shall come, and also Death, the robber, shall suddenly remove it from life, and fear shall accompany it, and trembling surround it, and injuries and losses come upon it; at the beginning lust hath no effect upon |506 the body because of [its] childhood and youth, and at the end it is extinguished by reason of old age.
These and such like means hath Divine wisdom constructed to bring evil lust to nought in the body, so that when it seeth the tribulations by its side, and the perpetual punishments which cleave unto its life, it may extinguish the goading lust from its members, that, is to say, it may make cold and extinguish in it the fire which burneth in all its members, like the flame which hath got a hold upon stubble, and the fire which sheweth its blaze in much fuel. For as is stubble before the fire, even so are the members before lust, and as when fire hath gained the mastery over fuel it destroyeth it, in like manner also doth lust destroy the members of the body when it hath gained the mastery over them; the end of a burning fire is ashes, and the end of lust in the members is destruction. Do not then bury fire in wood, nor lust in the members, for as naphtha and oil increase the blaze of the fire, even so also do foods and drink strengthen the blaze of lust; and as fire is extinguished by water, even so also is lust extinguished by abstinence. If thou throwest much water upon the fire it will extinguish it, but if thou pourest upon it [p. 532] naphtha or oil it will make it to blaze furiously, and thus if, for the nourishment of lust, thou throwest on the eating of meats and the drinking of wine, thou wilt add fire to fire, and thou wilt lay blaze upon blaze; but if thou diminishest meat and drink from the body, its natural lust will be dried up, and all its lusts will become extinguished, and grow cold.
Let therefore lust move in thy body, not for thy |507 defeat but for thy victory, not that it may be unto thee a cause of rebuke, but of crowns of triumph; not that thou mayest appear thereby foolish and ignorant, but that thou mayest gather therefrom understanding and wisdom; not that it may move in thee and blind the vision of thy power of discerning, but that it may be to thee an unguent to cleanse the eye of thy thoughts, and that that which is written may be fulfilled in thee, O understanding one, "The wise man sitteth upon a strong high place, but fools shall fall into the pit;" therefore whilst thou sittest upon the height of knowledge, let lust and the body be subdued below thee, and be thou a spectator of their fight, and not a participator in their lust. Take good heed unto thy natural lust, O understanding one, whilst thou art a spectator of the fight of the lust of the flesh, and let it be subject unto thee in everything, even as the earth is pressed down under the mountains; let thy will stir it up, and let thy will quiet it, and by the direction of thy vision also shall its course be. Unto the wise the motion of lust becometh the cause of instruction, and the material for knowledge, for passions are stirred up [p. 533] in them for the trial of passions, that they may test their power by them, and may make them the material for a life of knowledge, and [may know] when these arise, and with what measure they are wrought when the mind is in its natural freedom above passions. And it is as when a master giveth commands unto his servants and they obey him, and he layeth upon them the yoke of his rule while they turn their gaze to the movements by which he indicateth his will, that they may be prepared for his word and ready to hear his command, and while he abideth in the freedom of his |508 nature, they, like slaves, minister unto the will of his word.
Now what instruction is so excellent as that through which a man shall be able to find victory over his passions? For these passions will not only make thee triumphant, but also wise and understanding, if thou wilt be a spectator thereof and not a doer, and wilt be free from the gratification thereof, and wilt be bound by the knowledge which ariseth from them; for so long as the mind is held fast by the sweetness of lust, it cannot be a spectator of the fight and one that gathereth knowledge, but it turneth unto the pleasure which is corrupt. Now lust was placed in us to be a matter of contest and not of defeat, and that it might be overcome by us, and not we by it, and that through our training therein we might become wise, and not that it might shew us to be fools and simple folk. The material of all instruction which is outside us we are able to gather together to ourselves by speech, but the certainty of the wisdom of the instruction of knowledge which we acquire through victory over our passions is only established to us by the experience of work; and for this reason this instruction is trustworthy and certain, [p. 534] and this wisdom, when it is found, is more pleasant unto the soul than that which is without, because it is home-born, and the soul delighteth in it, and its pleasure ariseth therefrom, and not from causes which are external thereunto. For when we gather together knowledge from without, the possession of our knowledge cometh from without, but when we obtain such instruction as this from the experience of the passions of ourselves, the instruction which is gathered together by us is sure and |509 trustworthy, and confidence may be placed thereupon and be maintained. For if the things which are outside us become the material for our knowledge, how very much more shall these, which are stirred up from us and in us, be unto us the cause of the instruction of wisdom, if it be that we cast away this passion, that is the lust which is stirred up in us, and do not [give ourselves] to the gratification of the lust.
Be thou therefore a spectator of thyself by the power of the discernment of knowledge, and distinguish with understanding between thyself and thy passion, that thou mayest hasten to find the purity of thy person. Lust shall not be gratified in thee, lest at all seasons it demand its gratification from thee; when it hath begun thou shalt not give it completion, lest at the end it demand from thee another beginning. Cut off its course, and behold its source of flow will be obstructed, restrain it in the path of its flow, and straightway the motion which giveth it birth will be stilled. Lust is never satisfied, therefore by eating it becometh hungrier, and by drinking it becometh thirstier, and so long as lust fulfilleth its desires in thee, its goadings will never cease from thee. Thou shalt not say, "I will do its will now, and at another time "I will fight against it," for if thou art once conquered by it, it will overcome thee always, and in proportion as it [p. 535] becometh stronger in its action, will thy strength become weaker. Thou shalt not allow thyself to give thy strength unto lust that it may become strong therewith, but do thou make use of thy natural strength, and lust shall abide in the feebleness which befitteth it.
Let the heat of lust be unto thee an example of |510 instruction, that like unto it spiritual lust may rise up and become hot in thee, for in the manner in which the body blazeth with its natural lust doth also burn fiercely and become hot the natural lust of the spiritual-ness thereof. So long as the lust of the spirit is hot in thee, the lust of the body hath no means of wakening up itself, and if it be that this doth not try thee in deed, receive instruction from that which is contrary thereunto. For, behold, when the lust of the body becometh hot in thee thou wilt then perceive that the lust of the spirit hath wholly and entirely ceased from thee, and that the lust of the body would not have become awake if it had not found that the lust of the spirit was asleep; for by the sleep of either one of them the other becometh awake, and therefore they watch each other continually, that when the motions of the first are gathered together [for sleep], those which belong unto its opponent enter after it. For as the thief watch-eth and observeth the sleep of the master of the house, even so also doth the lust of the body watch the sleep of the lust of the spirit, and when it seeth a little indolence and sluggishness, and that a man hath removed from him the taste of the perception of divine lust, immediately the lust of the flesh is awakened, and it beginneth to move and to go up against all the members; and if a man be [p. 536] indolent and shew himself slack thereunto, it spreadeth itself out like night in the house of his person, and maketh it dark. For as, when the sun inclineth towards the west in his course, the shadows increase and become deeper upon the earth, until he setteth and his rays are cut off, whereupon do the shadows of night ascend completely and enshroud creation, even so also doth the darkness of the lust |511 of the flesh observe continually the course of the light of spiritual lust, and as it seeth that it is journeying to set, it moveth itself to rise, step for step, measure for measure, and limit for limit, until this light hath set entirely, and the rays of its spirituality have become dark and contracted into itself; then doth the shadow of lust rise up wholly and cover the soul, and black night ariseth in the house of light, and herefrom a man beginneth to stumble because he cannot see and distinguish the things which are placed before him. For as in the darkness of night the power of distinguishing any thing is covered over, even so also in the night of lust all the powers of discernment of the soul become darkened, and the power of its knowledge becometh impoverished----especially if it hath felt the knowledge of the spirit----for as darkness is the opposite of light, even so also is this passion of lust the opposite of the knowledge of the spirit.
And, moreover, when the mind turneth to become a spectator of the motions of lust, it doth not look thereupon with the spiritual eye, but [p. 537] with the part which seeth, and which looketh at things with the knowledge of the soul, and since it looketh on in this manner it gathereth knowledge from the contest, because when the mind looketh upon God spiritually nothing which is contrary thereto is seen by it, neither is it debased to look upon lust, for admiration of the majesty of the glory of God permitteth it not to turn and to look at the things which are set behind it, for the sight of the pleasure which it hath tasted is sufficient to bind it thereto immovably. And, moreover, though a man say that to gather instruction he must look upon lust, yet the mind doth not gather instruction |512 such as this from things which are contrary thereunto, but by the simple motion of knowledge which hath been acquired by it after freedom from passions, even as also the angels know everything, not by comparing one thing with another and by bringing near each other the things which are contrary to one another, but by a simple and a single thought are they moved to knowledge.
Let us then be also watchful against the mind which wisheth to be a spectator of lust, lest, not being wholly free from passions, when it is subjected to receive knowledge it may be caught by the pleasure of abominable passions; for the mind, moreover, standeth at that time in the contest, and as the body and the lust fight, so also must it fight that it be not captured by the love of what it seeth. Now if the mind is confident that it can, without passion, look upon the passion of lust, [well,] and if not, it is better [p. 538] for it to flee than to be a spectator; for if it feeleth its weakness it is better for it to flee than to be made subject unto its enemies. For to fight and gain the victory is a proof of bravery, and a mark of fortitude, but if it is to be captured by the gratification of passion, and to be stolen away from the love of knowledge, it is better for it to be free even from passion, and not to be subject thereunto and not to receive knowledge; for it is impossible for it to acquire knowledge if it be captured by passion, for its natural eye which hasteneth to look at the knowledge of things becometh blind, and is captured by the pleasure of passion and not by the pleasantness of wise discretion.
Now as the virtues are different one from another, even so also are the tastes thereof different, and each |513 man chooseth that which he desireth, and is captured by the passion which he seeketh: one is captured by the passion of lust, and another by the passion of knowledge, and whosoever is held fast by the passion for the gratification of lust hath no care to gather knowledge therefrom. And thus also he that is held fast by the graciousness of knowledge turneth not himself unto the gratification of lust, which carrieth away captive that which it carrieth away, and all the members of the soul and body are gathered together unto the passion which is the mightiest, that they may increase it and minister thereunto. And for this reason thou wilt find many of the friends of knowledge who are free from this passion [p. 539] of lust, and their victory is not a perfect victory because they have overcome passion by passion, and not by the power of discernment of the Divine knowledge.
Now unto us the victory over lust is not only necessary, but also it is meet for us to know the cause whereby we have conquered, that also the victory may thus be named after the cause thereof. If God be the cause, then the victory also is Divine, but if it [ariseth] from the world, or the love of knowledge, or vainglory, or that a man will not impoverish within himself one of the other passions when he overcometh the passion of fornication, it is meet that this victory should be accounted feeble; for according as the cause is visible, being either weak or strong, those who conquer passions by passions become their mortifiers and not their transgressors. But whosoever overcometh passions without passion gaineth an impassible victory, for how can that which is composed of the passions be |514 called a victory over the passions? and how can that which hath sprung from the root of their growth be Called the mortifier thereof? For since the thought of knowledge is strong in thee thou canst overcome the passion of fornication, and a time will come to one passion when it will overcome its fellow passion, and to that [second], passion will come another time, and it will conquer the [first] passion, and while these are in this manner conquering and being conquered a righteous victory can be snatched from between them.
Now a victory which taketh place righteously is when good [p. 540] conquereth evil, and when the lust of the spirit overcometh the lust of the body, and light, darkness, and knowledge conquer folly, and so likewise with all other things; and the victory which taketh place in iniquity is when evil conquereth good, and darkness, light, and folly, knowledge, and the victory which occupieth a middle place is that of the passions over each other. And it is not the victory of a Divine triumph when the passions conquer each other, and are conquered by each other, and according to the stablishing of the one [set of passions] is the destruction of the other. For there are some men who, for the sake of the love of money, fight with the lust of the belly; and others who, for the sake of vainglory, overcome the lust of fornication; and others who, for the sake of human praise, fight against the love of possessions; and others who, for the sake of the love of honour. are kept from the passion of many affairs; and others who, for the sake of love of rule, wage war against the love of pleasures; and all these [qualities] being vices, each conquereth the other and each is conquered by the other, but it is not accounted a |515 strict victory when passion fighteth with passion and overcometh it.
Now, therefore, lusts stir in the body, and evil passions move in the soul, and as their natures are contrary to each other, their passions are also contrary to each other, for all the lusts of the body are, so to say, contrary to the passions of the soul. And, [p. 541] moreover, according to the greater number of cases, all the evil passions which shoot up from the soul are the opposites of the lusts of the body, for there are passions of the body, and passions of the soul----now carnal passions are those which spring from the body, and passions of the soul are those which spring from the soul----and if a man consider [the matter] with knowledge, [he will see] that all the carnal passions help one another. The growth of the passion of the lust of the belly is from the body, and it is a helpmeet of fornication, which itself is also a carnal passion, and thus also [the love of] fine apparel, and the passion for human pleasures, and all those which following upon these are found with the body, are helpmeets of the passion of fornication. Now the passion of the love of money holdeth a middle place. Sometimes it aideth the lusts of the body, and sometimes it supporteth the passions of the soul, but by its abundant supply of money it helpeth the lust of the belly, and fornication, and [the love of] fine apparel, and pleasures, and the sounds of music, and the pleasantness of human conversations----all of which are the offspring of the body; but, on the other hand, it is also a supporter of the passions of the soul and it helpeth the love of ruling, and also the passion of vainglory----if a man wisheth to glorify himself in this way----and the honour and |516 praise of the world, and it is moreover the nurse of boasting, and it giveth support unto envy, and unto other things which are like unto these, and it is the cause of their being moved in the soul.
Now therefore the passion of the love of money [p. 542] bindeth and gathereth together separated passions, and it is also found in another guise, which is that it becometh the contrary of the passions of the soul and of the body; for if a man examine closely with knowledge [he will see] that in order that it may grow and be strong, it will restrain the lusts from the body and also the lusts of the soul from the soul. All the passions of the soul, then, are helpers of each other, for in the same way in which [our] discourse hath shewn that the lusts of the body help each other is it found to be in respect of the passions of the soul. For behold honour helpeth vainglory, and vainglory helpeth pride, and pride inciteth to rule and dominion, and all these, in this way, help each other; and although there are to these passions other views and aspects also which are contrary to them, yet in the path in which [our] discourse now travelleth they are helpers and supporters of each other. For as good helpeth good, even so also doth wickedness increase wickedness, but because the paths of passions are narrow, and they possess various exits, and motions, and aims, and guises, no man will judge my words hostilely when he looketh at the aims of others in whom are the passions which are contrary to each other, both of the body and of the soul, and the love of money which holdeth a middle place; but let him that would become a judge of our words examine the example which is laid before us, and he will find that as we have written, even so it is. [p. 543] |517 Now the person of a man, from which all the passions spring, is one, because sin itself is one, although it be divided into many forms, and its composition is established by the members of opposing passions.
But now we are speaking about the passion of fornication, concerning which our discourse was moved, that we may rouse up, and be the spectators thereof, because it is manifest that he that is conquered thereby is not truly awake. For in the same manner in which it happeneth unto those who sleep, and who dream dreams in their sleep without the discerning power of knowledge, and who feel the gratification of lust even in their slumbers, he who is lax in respect of this passion that he may minister unto his desires thereby, is also, as it were, sunk in a deep sleep, and at that time he possesseth neither the power of healthy discernment, nor wakeful intelligence, nor enlightened knowledge, nor a clear mind, but as the senses of his body are confounded, and the constitution of his members is relaxed by the goadings of lust, even so also are the thoughts of his soul confounded, and his intellect darkened, and his intelligence snatched away. And as all the members of the body turn to become ministrants unto lust, even so also are all the thoughts of the soul debased and sunk in the pleasure of the body, and are smitten by the sweetness of corrupt lust, and at that season a man doeth every thing like one who is asleep. And thou mayest understand from events themselves that he is sunk in sleep, for when he is without the fear of God, and the shame of man, and the remembrance of remote punishment, and the remembrance of the judgment which is near, and when shame and repentance are not set before his eyes at that time, |518 and he meditateth not, and the thought [p. 544] of one of these things entereth not into his mind, is it not evident that he is, as it were, sunk in deep sleep, and that he doeth everything unconsciously as in slumber?
And we may, moreover, know [this] from another thing: immediately the work of lust is finished repentance cometh over the soul, and suffering for what it hath done is produced therein, and the conscience which feeleth, and which the soul had not at the season of passion, cometh unto it after a time, and the soul is afflicted, and grieved, and sorrowful, and repenteth because of the works of shame, and it perceiveth that that which it hath done is blameworthy, and the remembrance of the Judge and of the condemnation moveth in it, and the vengeance which to come is depicted before its face. And there appeareth unto it as in the light and in wakefulness that which did not appear to it when it was asleep; and it meditateth upon God, and is mindful of the Judgment, and remembereth the punishment, and despiseth lust, and it blameth itself for what hath been transgressed, because it was overcome by the attack of a dream, and vanquished by the onset of a shadow, and because, being something it was led into subjection by that which was not anything. Now these and such like fair memories which come upon the soul after the performance of the act of lust shew that it hath turned from slumber to wakefulness, and that it standeth in the healthy remembrance of itself, and that it hath returned to the house of life from the depth of slumber, and from the death of sin.
Now, therefore, in the season of lust, wakefulness is more useful to a man than anything else, and we must consider what thing will overcome it, and how |519 despicable and contemptible it is. For a short time sufficeth for the performance of the act of lust, and for us to withdraw from the performance of its abominable work, and behold we may see that there is no desire the performance of which is so rapid as that of the gratification of lust; [p. 545] and as the pleasure thereof is for a brief moment, and the gratification thereof for a short season, it is fitting that it should make us hold it in contempt, and not that we should be subject unto its destroying incitement. For I do not know that there is any other lust which is so absolutely unprofitable as this, and the feebleness of which is so apparent on all sides; if [thou lookest for] advantage, it existeth not; or at the season of its gratification, it is short; or at the enjoyment thereof, it is like a shadow; or at the motions of its refreshing, they are horrible; or at the causes which incite it, they are feeble; or at its actions, they are like those of animals; or at its ways, they resemble those of beasts; or at repentance, it is nigh unto it; or at fear, it accompanieth it; or at shame, it is its fellow dweller; or at terror, it is found therewith; or at trembling, it followeth in its train; or at loss, it followeth after it; or at defects; they are nigh unto it; or at an evil name, it is crowned therewith; or at scoffing, it accompanieth it at all [seasons; or at mocking, it is made a laughing-stock by all men; and whichever way thou lookest at lust loss accompanieth it. By which of these defects, then, shall it overcome us? And why should it vanquish us, even though its goadings be mighty? By which or by whatever it is, it is the more fitting that we should despise it. But because of our cowardice it seemeth that lust conquereth us by that thing with which it would be |520 the more right that we should overcome it, and should it be thought that it is powerful in us, it is because the power of our soul is feeble in us. Now the power which is in lust it taketh from the soul, [p. 546] and when strength is snatched from the soul, feebleness remaineth therewith. And what soul is so wretched as that of the strength of which others make use, and it itself is clothed with the weakness of others? The spiritual nature of our soul hath acquired naturally strength [to fight] against desires, and it is easy for it to overcome them if it pleaseth; for as feebleness, and dissolution, and destruction are nigh naturally unto the nature of the body, even so also are might and the sureness of virtues nigh unto the spiritual nature, and if it maketh use of [its] might it taketh it, as it were, from its own nature. Now besides this there accompanieth the soul the grace of the spirit which giveth it help and power, if it be that it fulfilleth its good desire, for as when a strong man taketh hold of the hand of a child he carrieth off his weakness by the association of his own strength, even so also doth the Holy Spirit take hold of the thoughts of the soul, which is suspended like the hand of the child, that it may be exalted unto spiritual things, and that by its union with the Spirit it may acquire lightness beyond its nature. Whosoever delivereth his soul to the spirit to be nursed thereby, the whole action of his life becometh superior to harm, and for this reason Paul teacheth us to live in the spirit, and to perfect the spirit;13 for whosoever liveth in the spirit and perfecteth it, his whole life becometh spiritual, and he is led by the motions |521 of the spirit, and his thoughts and deeds take place according to the will of the spirit. It is not because we lack a helper that we are overcome by lust, but [p. 547] because we do not seek help from the Helper, for as lust itself when it wisheth to overcome us invoketh other things to its aid, and then fighteth and conquereth us, even so must we also, if we determine to fight and to overcome it, invoke the aid of Divine power, and the support of the grace which is in us, and we shall easily overcome the lust which fighteth against us. For so long as our soul is purified from the thoughts of lust it standeth in the might of its nature, and so long as it is exalted to stand in the power of its nature, it is worthy to receive Divine power to be its support, and when it hath such company as this, it cannot be easily overcome by the lusts which fight with it.
Preserve thyself, then, [O disciple,] from the causes which will lead thee to lust, and dam up the watercourses and channels which collect an alien flow against thee from all sides, and when thou hast cut off the causes by which sicknessess are increased, even though thou dost not bring to them medicines for thy sores, they will choose them for themselves, and little by little the suppuration which is in them will finish and come to an end. For the lust which is in us is increased by causes which are outside us, and they are many in number, and each one is different from the other, and each one of them holdeth out to lust a separate power; and if thou cuttest off these causes, lust also cometh to nought and is finished, for lust cannot exist without these things, neither can it remain in us if it happen [p. 548] that the causes thereof are removed. |522
Now sometimes lust ariseth from the body, and sometimes from the motions of the thoughts, and sometimes from causes which are outside us, either from sight, or hearing, or through such like things, and it is right that we should consider with knowledge where it beginneth, and before everything cut it off there. If it be that it is stirred up by causes which are without, let us cut off from ourselves human intercourse, and let us make ourselves strangers to the sight of the things which are its helpers, and by this means we shall shut out its entrance unto us. If it be that its motions arise from the blaze of the heat of the body, it is right that we should make the body feebler and should diminish its strength by means of little and meagre food, and by the drinking of water even by measure, and by other afflictions which are wont to reduce the heat of the body. But if it happen that we perceive that the beginning of lust ariseth from the mind, it is right that we should know that the conscience itself is empty of the thought of God, and that because motions of Him are not therein, alien motions which are outside Him have fallen therein. And if it appear to us that the thought of lust is moved in us through the inactivity of the conscience towards the things which are good, we must make it our care to join it unto the understanding with the thought of spiritual things, and with the Divine knowledge, and at this time we must be constant in the reading of the Scriptures, and in the hearing of the stories of mighty men of endurance, and we must depict their forms before our eyes at all times, [p. 549] and we must stir up in us the lust of being like unto them; and we must also be constant in prayer, which, more than anything else, maketh the |523 understanding to acquire strength, for the sole work of prayer is to clothe the mind with invincible might. For as when we are remote from the converse of empty minds and are strangers unto the visions of slothfulness, we purify our thoughts, and we gather together our faculties to our souls, even so also when we are constant in prayer----after collecting the mind----our thoughts acquire power to fight mightily against the passions which fight against them.
Now, therefore, it is in these three ways that lust gaineth dominion over our lives, and if we know how to shut the door in its face wisely, and if we set against each one the means which befitteth it, we shall cast lust out from us and we ourselves shall abide in the purity our souls; and we shall be led by the might of an invincible understanding, after which the soul is worthy of the blessing of sublime vision, and there cometh to it the perception in spiritual things, which is above the body. And as the body is moved by the things of its nature, and is gratified thereby (or findeth rest), even so also hath the soul enjoyment in spiritual motions, and it liveth in the pleasure of the light of the living knowledge which is above the world, of which may all the disciples of faith be worthy, [p. 550] by the grace of Christ, the God of all, to Whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Here endeth the [First] Discourse upon the lust of Fornication.
[Footnotes renumbered and moved to the end. Page numbers in brackets refer to the Syriac text in vol. 1 of the printed edition.]
1. 1 St. Matthew x. 10.
2. 2 St. Matthew vi. 34.
3. 3 Romans xiii. 1.
4. 1 Romans vii. 7,8.
5. 1 Psalm lxviii. 6.
6. 1 Psalm lxviii. 5.
7. 2 Psalm lxviii. 6.
8. 1 EFG add: "And as the whore draweth nigh unto the wanton who turn glad faces unto her, but departeth and fleeth at the fearful sight of the chaste, even so also doth lust."
9. 1 Genesis ii. 24; St. Matthew xix. 5.
10. 1 Ephesians iv. 6.
11. 2 1 Corinthians iii. 16; vi. 19; and compare Ephesians ii. 21, 22; Hebrews iii. 6.
12. 3 1 Corinthians iii. 17.
13. 1 Galatians v. 25.